The tradition of the forest by Jeanne Schut

- through Fabrice Groult

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The title is already in itself an invitation to travel. An epic that would take us back in time to that of Buddha Shakyamuni himself, because as Jeanne Schut reminds us in her introduction: the future Buddha is " born in the forest » ; they are " awake in the forest " and he has " taught and ended his life in the forest ". The forest lore, which is in question here, is the current of Theravada Buddhism born in Thailand at the end of the XNUMXth century, whose forest is, you guessed it, the privileged setting of the practice.

Let's say it right away: this work, which reads like a novel, fills a void, as the documents on Theravada Buddhism are not legion and those on the tradition of the forest even rarer. It must be said that the monks of this school are traditionally discreet and favor the practice of meditation on book knowledge alone. But why, you will ask me? The answer to this question could come from Dhammapada, the collection bringing together the words of the Buddha in the form of verses, in which one can read: He who sits alone, sleeps alone, walks alone / Who tirelessly trains his mind in moderation, he will be happy in the solitude of the forest ". It is therefore to give themselves every chance of success in their spiritual quest that practitioners withdraw into these protected areas of man to sharpen their ability to concentrate, an essential tool for finding wisdom and inner peace, and thus escaping to our initial condition of suffering.

The book by Jeanne Schut, a pioneer in this tradition in France, sheds light on the origins and history of this current still little known in the West, while revealing to us the reasons for the emergence of this new school. The part that describes the main activities and the daily life of the monks of the forest is fascinating, and the least we can say is that it is far from easy! Between the vagaries of life in the jungle, food reduced to a minimum – depending on what the laity can afford – and the diseases inherent in the country such as malaria, jungle typhus or amoebic dysentery, as the author says, " this is not an easy path to follow… “But, she continues, it is an approach” particularly direct and healthy to overcome our greatest obstacles and allow the door to open wide which leads to the Liberation of suffering. »

The heart of the book is made up of the biographies of the main masters who left their mark on this tradition, accompanied by the translation of one of their teachings. Biography after biography, we remain under the spell. It must be said that the author always tells us “extraordinary” stories! Implicitly, we understand the importance of finding an authentic master who can help us on the way, and that study is as important as practice, one nourishing the other, and vice versa.

Deeply rooted in its time, a chapter is devoted to the place of women in Buddhism, more particularly in the tradition of the monks of the forest. It is unusual to hear about female masters, Jeanne Schut corrects this injustice by making us discover particularly inspiring paths. And for those who would like to dig deeper into the subject, the author corrects the absence of a bibliography at the end of the volume by mentioning in his notes a website (see below) which offers many avenues for further study. To read and reread, without moderation.

photo of author

Fabrice Groult

Fabrice Groult is an adventurer, photographer and Buddhist who has traveled the world since a young age. After studying Buddhism in India, he embarked on an eighteen-month journey through Asia that took him to the Himalayas, where he discovered his passion for photography. Since then, he has traveled the world capturing images of Buddhist beauty and wisdom. He was a guide for ten years, and is now a journalist with Buddhist News.

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